Anxiety shadows almost every person struggling to conceive. Additionally having fertility treatment like IVF is emotionally tough for most. With anxious thoughts hammering your mind and body, stress can turn into white noise. And eventually you may stop noticing those tense shoulders, increased heart rate, shallow breathing. If you stopped being aware of it, anxiety still keeps harming you.

Apart from the physical harm, infertility stress may affect your life and relationship so much so that you may stop trying to have a family. In fact, the most common reason why patients discontinue IVF is the psychological burden.  Despite studies showing stress reduces your chances of conception, surprisingly, IVF clinics do little to help you deal with stress and anxiety. Yes, they offer a couple of counselling sessions, but mostly stress management falls on already exhausted patients.

 

What can you do to manage your IVF and infertility stress and anxiety?

Acupuncture is one of the effective non-pharmaceutical options. Studies confirm it can reduce IVF related stress, in addition to improving your odds to conceive with IVF.

The most up to date IVF acupuncture systematic review and meta-analysis concludes that acupuncture is a drug-free and safe treatment that may benefit couples with IVF-related anxiety. This is a significant study summing up the evidence from eight other studies including in total 1,785 patients undergoing IVF.

Why non-pharmacological stress-reducing therapies like acupuncture are important?

  • Acupuncture reduces stress and anxiety by downregulation of the autonomic nervous system. Unlike supplements or medication, it does not add another substance to the hormone mix that the patient is already taking.
  • Safety. Acupuncture has a proven track record in terms of side effects. Essentially it has no harmful side effects. If done by a qualified practitioner light bruising is the most reported side effect of reproductive acupuncture.
  • Acupuncture for stress works fast and is non-addictive. No withdrawal effects, not addictive and quick response/effect when compared to psychiatric medications. Unlike anti-anxiety/depression medication the onset of acupunctures’ effect is relatively quick and once discontinued there is no withdrawal.
  • Improves IVF success rates. And last but not least it has been shown to improve IVF success rates simultaneously alongside reducing stress and anxiety.

All in all, acupuncture is safe and effective IVF add on that is gaining continued support from a growing number of studies.

This post was inspired by and references the 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis led by Lee Hullender Rubin. See the abstract below.

Effect of acupuncture on in vitro fertilization-related anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Lee E. HullenderRubin, Caroline A.Smith, Rosa N.Schnyer, PeggyTahir, Lauri A.Pasch

Patients undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) experience high levels of IVF-related state anxiety. Non-pharmacologic interventions like acupuncture may provide support, but its effect on IVF-related anxiety is unclear.

This was a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the effect of acupuncture on IVF-related state anxiety. The primary outcome was state anxiety after embryo transfer or oocyte retrieval as assessed by State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Hamilton Anxiety Scale, Visual Analog Scale, or Standard Form 36.

Eight trials with 2,253 participants were reviewed, and 1,785 participants completed an anxiety assessment. Using the random effects model, the meta-analysis found small, but significant effects on state anxiety with acupuncture versus any control [Standardized Mean Difference (SMD) -0.21; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) -0.39, -0.04, very low certainty evidence]. Evidence was limited by the moderate number of included studies of an intermediate median sample size (N=191). There was also a high risk of performance bias and substantial heterogeneity across trials. Acupuncture is a drug-free and safe treatment that may benefit those who are burdened with IVF-related anxiety, but more investigation is needed for confirmation.